About 27 University of Zambia (UNZA) students were on Thursday night arrested for unruly behaviour following running battles with the Zambia Police after students protested destroying properties and disrupting flow of traffic on Great East Road over management’s delay of students’ allowances.
This was the second time this week that the students run amok in protesting decisions from management.
The students’ have condemned the Students’ Union (UNZASU) for being toothless in their negotiations with management and government over the issues affecting students at the highest learning institution.
Police used tear gas to disperse the riotous students and some talked to during the fracas confirmed to the Daily Nation that the protests were as a result of the University’s inability to payment students’ allowances before the end of the week as earlier promised. The protest on Sunday was as a result of governments’ suggestions that the learning institution be closed 30 days earlier to pave way for the renovations in readiness for the SADC games due to take place in November.
“Our management on campus is UNZASU, and when they come to us to say ‘probably’ which means they were not sure of what they are saying. As students we are supposed to be their priority, but as returning students we have not yet received our allowances. The first years got their (K2.8million) Bursaries Committee fund (BC) when they reported but we have been asked to wait and now it is over a month since we reported on campus, how do we survive?,” said some students.
They complained that the students union seemed to be supporting management’s position as opposed to fighting for the students’ welfare.
UNZASU Business affairs chairperson Amandra Musumba said it was unfortunate that the situation got out of hand when it was being handled by the stakeholders.
Ms Musumba said “everything was just ok, the students were just calm but I don’t know what happened,” she said as she braved the teargas fumes during the heated protests.
But the students argued that there was no official stance from the union on the earlier suggestions of closing the institution in September despite media reports that government had maintained the October timetable as well as the issue on students’ allowances.
And others said the main issue of student’s allowances was that while first years’ were paid K2.8 million, there was rumour that all returning students would receive K1.1million which was not enough to cater for their needs.
“There is a rumour that returning students will be getting K1.1 million while the ‘freshers’ got K2.8million, and this has infuriated many students who have resorted to the protest action,” they explained.
However upon noticing the presence of police, the students abandoned the roadside and went to gather at monk square to chart the way forward.
And Police were on site as the tension continued into Friday morning.
But Education minister John Phiri assured students that their allowances were ready and that nothing would hinder them from getting their allowances.
Dr Phiri however said there was a lot of inefficiency in distributing bursaries and that the system needed to be improved.
The minister also said the SADC zone six games would not in any way interrupt the learning Programme at the highest leaning institution.
Meanwhile the 27 students that were arrested by police have since been released from custody after a meeting between UNZASU leaders and the police command.
The student leadership assured police there would be no more protests at the institution.